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ASFPM National Flood Programs and Policies in Review 2015

At no time in our nation's history has national flood policy been more important. Current research shows that our sea level is rising, storms are intensifying, and flood damages are significantly increasing. Areas that have never flooded before are now flooding, and we've seen flood damage costs rise from what was about $1 billion a year in 1900, to more than $10 billion a year in the 2000s. Two recent hurricanes – Katrina and Sandy – cost the US taxpayer more than $200 billion. For these reasons, we have updated our National Flood Policies and Programs in Review (2015), which puts forth hundreds of recommendations we've identified as ways to improve national flood policies and programs to better serve the nation.

National Flood Programs and Policies in Review (2015 rev8)


ASFPM National Flood Programs and Policies in Review 2007

National Flood Programs and Policies in Review 2007 is the most recent in the Association of State Floodplain Managers' (ASFPM's) periodic reviews of national floodplain management policy and the activities being undertaken to implement it. Through these reports, the ASFPM-the nation's leading organized voice in this field, with 13,000 members throughout the nation and 27 state chapters-records important program and policy adjustments that are needed to improve floodplain management, thus saving lives and property and protecting essential floodplain resources and functions.

Contiguous Document(19.7MB)

Matrix of Recommendations



What is Happening

Over the last seven years-when the ASFPM's last policy review was published-four trends have affected how the nation manages its flood risk and floodplain resources:

  • Hazard risk is increasing-The growth of the U.S. population and its movement to coastal areas and to the West are causing an increase in human vulnerability to the hazards of flooding.
  • Conditions are changing-The impacts of climate change are beginning to be felt in the form of more severe storms and hurricanes and rising sea levels, requiring a more aggressive approach to reduce flood losses and protect such resources as wetlands and riparian habitat.
  • Attention to natural hazards is waning-National priorities have shifted, splitting scarce expertise, funding, and focus between national security and hazards management.
  • Technology has improved predictions of where it will flood, but not when-Electronic communication and the internet have revolutionized the expectations of the public for instant access to information that is visually appealing even though technical and complex.

What Must Be Done

National Flood Programs and Policies in Review 2007 contains more than 280 recommendations for improvements to initiatives nationwide. Some are targeted for action by federal agencies, Congress, and the Administration, and some require action and cooperation at the state, local, and individual levels. A few highlights are listed below.

  1. Stronger federal leadership is essential; the agencies, the Administration, and Congress must work to improve water- and flood-related programs at all levels of government.

    Congress should enact a National Floodplain Management Policy to protect, maintain, and restore riverine and coastal areas as sustainable ecosystems for future generations and also to set forth the roles of each level of government in reducing flood losses

    A water resources coordinating mechanism must be established at a high level within the federal government.

    A coordinated, watershed-based, multi-objective approach for all water resource activities, led by local and state governments, must be encouraged

    No federal program should support or foster in any way the transfer of flooding impacts from one entity to another or from present generations to the future.

    FEMA should have independent-agency status, with direct access to the President.

    Congress should amend the Disaster Relief Act to apportion costs, roles, and responsibilities among the levels of government and the public in a manner that is commensurate with the risks each faces.

    The President should issue an Executive Order directing federal agencies to consider climate change, and adaptations to it, in all planning, permitting, design, and construction.

  2. States, communities, and individuals must take more responsibility for flood hazard reduction and resource protection; the federal government should provide the authority and incentives for them to do so.

    All taxpayer-funded flood disaster relief should be contingent upon taking flood mitigation action wherever feasible, including maintaining flood insurance, even for properties outside of the 100-year floodplain.

    All federal assistance for structural and nonstructural flood loss reduction and for and disaster relief should be based on the same sliding cost-sharing formula to provide an incentive to state and local action.

    Flood insurance and appropriate development standards should be mandatory for all homes and businesses in the failure zones of all dams, levees, diversions, and reservoirs, with insurance rates based on the residual risk.

  3. Inconsistencies and deficiencies need to be remedied; specific problems exist in coordination, funding, and implementation of many of our policies and programs

    The NFIP regulations should be modified to require that coastal structures be elevated one to three feet (or more) above the identified 100-year flood elevation.

    FEMA and the Department of Transportation should produce flood loss reduction guidelines and standards for replacing roads and bridges with federal disaster funds.

    No-build buffer zones should be established in the high-hazard areas of the nation's coast, similar to the no-build floodway zones in riverine floodways.

    Technical assistance programs like the Corps of Engineers' Flood Plain Management Services and Planning Assistance to States programs should be expanded and generously funded

    Congress should provide ongoing and adequate funding for federal initiatives that benefit the whole nation, including data collection, forecasting, geographic information systems, scientific research, FEMA's flood mapping, the U.S. Geological Survey's streamgaging, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Integrated Ocean Observing System.

  4. Completely new approaches should be considered by federal agencies, Congress, and the Administration

    A more effective model may be to delegate to the states the authority for flood hazard management and resource protection. Incentives in the form of smaller cost-shares after a disaster would encourage state assumption of responsibility.

    A Presidential or Congressional commission should explore alternatives to the current insurance/local land use management/disaster relief paradigm, which has not reduced flood losses.

All of these ideas-and the hundreds more detailed in National Flood Programs and Policies in Review 2007-will be the focus of ASFPM effort over the next five years or so. We invite our partners and colleagues in state and local governments, federal agencies, the insurance industry, Congress, and the private sector to join us in working toward enhanced resiliency in the face of flooding, reduced flood losses, and a society with a sustainable relationship to its riparian and coastal lands.




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